A renewed interest in understanding the role of iconicity in the structure and processing of signed languages is hampered by the conflation of iconicity and transparency in the definition and operationalization of iconicity as a variable. We hypothesize that iconicity is fundamentally different than transparency since it arises from individuals' experience with the world and their language, and is subjectively mediated by the signers' construal of form and meaning. We test this hypothesis by asking American Sign Language (ASL) signers and German Sign Language (DGS) signers to rate iconicity of ASL and DGS signs. Native signers consistently rate signs in their own language as more iconic than foreign language signs. The results demonstrate that the perception of iconicity is intimately related to language-specific experience. Discovering the full ramifications of iconicity for the structure and processing of signed languages requires operationalizing this construct in a manner that is sensitive to language experience.
- Signed language
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Linguistics and Language